Contemplation

It’s all meaningless.

It’s been a month since my father died. It doesn’t seem long. When I was told the news by a police officer at my door I thought I’d take this sort of thing in some dramatic way. I’d drop to my knees, arms outstretched to the sky, it would be cloudy, birds would fly overhead. I’d sob uncontrollably. No. I took it like a lot of other things in life. News. Bad news. I called my boss first to let him know I wouldn’t make it to work for a few days. Made my rounds calling uncles and aunts and cousins. I have no siblings.

It was a great service. Lots of people showed up. My father, extremely active in AA for nearly 20 years, had lots of drunks show up. We had an AA meeting during one of the viewings. My pastor said it was one of the most spiritual things he’d ever been too. A kid from church played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes at the cemetary. It was all very surreal. (more…)

Global Discussion on Shaping our Spiritual Life – Una Discusión Global sobre la Formación de una Vida Espiritual

In order to learn from one another’s experiences, AMIGOS periodically sends out discussion questions to be shared among young people connected with Mennonite World Conference. The current questions are:

– What do you do to shape up your spiritual life?
– How do you pray? (for example: times in silence, etc.)

Para aprender de las experiencias de los demás, AMIGOS periódicamente manda preguntas para discusión para ser compartidas entre jóvenes conectados con el Congreso Mundial Menonita. Las preguntas actuales son:

– ¿Qué haces para mantener tu vida espiritual en forma?
– ¿Cómo oras? (Por ejemplo: tiempos en el silencio, etc.)
(more…)

Advice time! What should I know or do before going to Bolivia?

It looks like I’ll be spending some time in a different hemisphere before too long. Details aren’t finalized, but I think it’s safe to say I’ll be going to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, for about four months starting in January. My church has been supporting an orphanage there for longer than I can remember. I’ve been hearing about this children’s home since I was 12 years old and seriously thought about going there at other decision points in my life. This time, I’m actually going and not just listing it in my options.

If we had smilies on YAR, I’d use the one where the character jumps up and down excitedly with a giant grin.

Since this will be my first trip to the Third Word—technically I was in central Jamaica when I was three, but I don’t remember it—I know I have a lot of mental work to do in the next two months. I can never be fully prepared. I expect to be changed a lot while I’m there. But there’s no reason I can’t start that personal process in the mean time.

What/who do my fellow YARs recommend I read, listen to, watch or talk to before I go? If you’ve been to Bolivia, or Santa Cruz, or even this orphanage (like Denver), what do you wish you would have known before you went? What should I pay close attention to while I’m there? What surprised you the most? What do you wish people would ask you about? (more…)

Mystics

“Ironic, but one of the most intimate acts
of our body is
death.

So beautiful appeared my death—knowing who then I would kiss,
I died a thousand times before I died.

‘Die before you die,’ said the Prophet
Muhammad.

Have wings that feared ever
touched the Sun?

I was born when all I once
feared—I could
love.”
-Rabia (Sufi mystic)

Mystics have saved my spirituality these last 4 months. Their wild, pithy, and beautiful poetry has inspired me beyond measure to continue to re-center and reconnect with the divine. I am just learning about mystics. Does any YAR out there have more information about them, besides what I can Google? Has anyone being loved by the Beloved? (more…)

Situation in Burma at Critical point

Photo by Worak, licensed under Creative Commons
Attribution ShareAlike License version 2.0:All day today I’ve been meaning to sit down and right something meaningful about the escalating situation in Burma which seems ripe for change or extensive repression. Turns out someone with far more experience has done a great job of laying out the history of the situation there and a useful perspective on what’s happening:

Excerpt from Burma on the March by Gene Stoltzfus (founder of Christian Peacemaker Teams):

Buddhist teachings and values are deeply ingrained in Burmese society and when monks lead, an unwritten message is sent to the nation. The arrest of monks creates a shocking dissonance in the minds of the Buddhist population. In the practice of Buddhism in Burma, people frequently leave the routine of their lives for a few weeks to become monks. With saffron robes, shaved heads and begging bowls they examine their lives, perhaps in the hope of gaining merit, more spiritually centered living, or to move along in their own personal cycle of karma. Some of the monks walking in the demonstrations now are almost certainly people who have only recently joined the monastery for a brief break.

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1st Year Reflections from a 1st Year Mennonite – Gonna be a long one folks

A friend of mine invited me to a Mennonite church with her to experience their message this past November of 2006. I looked into the history; I examined the theology. And it made sense to me. As a result, I had a Christian conversion.

And then I spent some time in the church, and found that faith can smolder even among Mennonites. Despite a great theological understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit, I rarely hear Mennonites talk about the Spirit in their lives. Though preaching pacifism, some Mennonite lives out passive-ism. And still others cling to an ethnic identity which, while certainly important to heritage, is also exclusionary for those folks who don’t share that history.

I found this blog and thought perhaps it could be a helpful spiritual outlet for me. And, indeed, it has been.

But even us folks I think warrant a bit of constructive criticism, which I do submit comes from within my limited worldview, so take it with a grain of salt. YAR ain’t perfect. I may love this space, but I don’t unflaggingly support it. In the upcoming year, I would suggest the following to be considered by us folks: (more…)

The Nature of Truth

In the Church of the Brethren, we have to talk a lot about how to reconcile our beliefs with those of our brothers and sisters who don’t feel the same way. Members of our denomination (my understanding is that Mennonites face the same questions) cover the political spectrum end to end, with varying stances on all the good “moral questions:” abortion, same-sex marriage, non-resistance, the military, salvation… the list goes on. And so we are faced with the sticky task of recognizing the validity of our brother’s faith while still affirming our own as true and right.

Hokay, so. Here’s the question. Is there one truth in the middle of the theological dartboard that we’re all throwing at, some getting closer than others? Or is there wiggle room? Is it possible that when I say homosexuality is A-OK and my dad has a problem with it, we’re both somehow equally right thanks to the logic-defying power of God? If I’m a Christian and my roommate is a Pagan, are we just on different roads heading in the same general direction? (more…)

Sexism has never been so much fun.

Ba-ack step, tri-ple step, tri-ple step, ba-ack step, spi-in left…

I had way too much fun swing dancing this weekend. When I sat down to blog about it on my personal blog today, I started realizing just how much gender roles are infused into that seemingly-innocent passtime. I thought back to my comment in response to Tom’s giving-up-music post, how it was admirable to be willing to give up something you like because something else is more important. I realized swing dancing might be that for me. Now, I know I only just got back into it, and it’s not an ingrained part of my life (yet; it very well could be soon). When near a thrift store today, I stopped in to see if they had any heel-less shoes I’d want to wear dancing.

The difference between music/secular music and dancing is the music is a personal morality issue, which the prolific YAR posters tend not to be concerned about, while the dancing definitely could contribute to social sexist pressures and all that. (more…)

A Theology of Enough: Speed and the Working Week

I apologise for my long silence. I’ve recently been thinking a lot about “a theology of enough”, pace of living, and sustainability in all areas of our lives. Instead of crafting a beautiful and articulate essay, I thought I’d offer my ramblings and learn from what responses and questions, if any, fellow YAR readers have to offer to the considerations. I think considering the way we pace our lives, and in particular our working lives, is a spiritual discipline, and therefore an important idea to consider – whether for the first time or as a reminder. (more…)

Bible Reflection – 5/22/07

I have put together the following reflection and prayer on the beauty of diversity in our world (please don’t cringe, I know the term “diversity” gets misused often as “let’s point out all the different stereotypes of different ethnic groups!”). The following passage from Mark reminds us that there isn’t just one way (one denomination, dare i say, “one religion”?) of looking at everything in the world.

Mark 9:38-41

38″Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39″Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

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On the Ascension of our Lord

[Icon of the Ascension]

Today, the seventh Sunday of the Easter season, we celebrate the ascension of our Lord into heaven. “‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight” (Acts 1,8–9).

“The mystery of the Ascension throws open before us the spiritual horizon before which such a gain* must be situated. It is the horizon of the victory of Christ over sin and death. He ascends into heaven as king of love and of peace, source of salvation for the whole human race. He ascends ‘to appear in the presence of God on our behalf’ as we have just heard in the Letter to the Hebrews (Heb 9,24). What comes to us from the word of God is an invitation to confidence: ‘he who promised is faithful’ (Heb 10,23). (more…)

Anabaptist radicalism and the life of contemplation

Hello good people
I stumbled upon this site two days ago while doing some thinking about a book chapter I’m writing for an upcoming publication about the conversation about gayness in the Mennonite world. Tim – did you come up with this? It’s fantastic! I’ve read through most of the posts here. I’m also supposed to be studying for the first round of medical boards right now, (taken in the middle of medical school), so it’s also one of those procrastination-inspiration things.

I’ve been rolling those words over in my head and trying them on for size; young is pretty easy, I guess – more the Anabaptist Radical part. I feel a little different than those who I consider my peers in this stage of faith. If I can attempt to draw a generalization first – a number of us might have been through similar phases of a childhood and teenage faith that was uncomplicated in its ability to answer all questions about the world and God, with reference to the Bible and church teachings/tradition; then for one reason or another entered a deconstructive phase where the internal inconsistencies of that (more…)

When in War, Go to Poetry (and then what??)

Hi, folks. If you are a fellow Menno who would love to hear more sermons on how we can show our peace church roots on a local and national level during times of war, read this article. It warmed my ever-reaching heart.

It’s easy to fall into “Acedia” (being so overwhelmed that we do nothing). But there are oodles of things one person can do for peace and justice. Here are just a few of those oodles:
-support the Peace Tax Foundation in various ways
-walk/bike/carpool
-buy a consistent fair trade item (like coffee, wedding gifts, etc. etc.)
-dialogue and connect face-to-face (I’ve gotten to know a classmate whose husband is a soldier in Afghanistan…it’s been challenging and humbling)
-read poetry! :) OK, I’m a poet. I’m biased. But words do powerful, lifechanging things to people!

Surrender

“We cannot rest content in ourselves. In the elements and experiences of our life, to which we give meaning, we do not find satisfying light and protective security. We only find these things in the intangible mystery that overshadows our heart from the first day of our lives, awakening questions and wonderment and luring us beyond ourselves. We surrender ourselves to this mystery, as a person in love surrenders to the mystery of the beloved and there finds rest. We are creatures whose being is sheltered and protected only insofar as we open ourselves up to intangible, greater realities. We are at peace in the open, unconquered precincts of mystery.”

~Johannes Baptist Metz, “Poverty of Spirit”